It’s so easy to be so invested in our school community and the lives of our students. Unfortunately, as a result of the mental and physical energy we spend, it’s also easy to burn out. While we became music teachers to make a difference, it should take a toll on our mental and physical well-being.

Many of the same things we view as professional investments can also lead us down the path of no return: the path toward burning out. Over time, the energy and enthusiasm that pushes us through the extra rehearsals, extra concerts, and community events can also lead us to become warn out or feel like quitting; even worse, they can takes a toll on our personal live  and even our health.

Teacher burnout has always been an issue, but with the additional stresses related to the pandemic, many of us are at the end of the rope. While there’s so much we cannot control, there are plenty of things within our control.

Here are 18 important tips to prevent teacher burnout!

1. Don’t overextend yourself

More hours does not create better results. Instead, we should meet the requirements of our job and focus on impacting our students within our job description. As a result, additional rehearsals, weekend performances, and other unpaid activities should be minimized. When we believe an added opportunity can significantly benefit our ensemble, we should then only begin to considerate it. Additionally, we can empower our singers to perform without us whenever possible.

2. Empower your student officers

This requires a lot more than just having officers. It involves choosing the correct students who are mutually respected by students and the director; we must empower them to complete all tasks that are not necessary for us to do. First, we must create a process for choosing the right officers. Next, we must ensure we create the right responsibilities for our students; as a result, they will be excited about the work they do and take a lot off of our plate.


3. Change with the seasons

Summer, Fall, Winter, and Spring should breed different energy into our ensemble. It’s not just about the songs we program, it’s about changing the way in which we direct our energy.  Change the focus, change the approach, change the seating, etc.  A minimum of four clear changes a year will keep our program interesting to the students, and to us.

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4. Foster group discussions

Engage students in deep discussions about text, shape, the composer, the poet, the concert, the importance of the class for each member, what singing means to them; these discussions, when properly facilitated  by us, will invigorate our understanding of why we do what we do. 

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5. Participate in positive Facebook choral forums

Join groups of choral directors and music educators that focus and positive and supportive environment. In those groups, present situations, discuss repertoire, and share ideas with the entire choral community.  I recommend joining the Choral Clarity Facebook Group. The group that I mediate is one that does not allow put-downs and insults. Ask questions and engage with other choral directors with positive support. I also recommend Choir Director Central. If you want to engage in healthy discussion about choral topics, I also recommend joining the Choralosophers Group; this group discusses Chris Munce’s Choralosophy podcast, but even if you don’t happen to listen to an episode, he creates great dialogue and moderates brilliantly in the group.

We should also try to disengage from Facebook groups that shoot down ideas and bully. There are some toxic choral Facebook group out there. – save 15% on the best online notation program out there!

6. Have and maintain outside hobbies

Teaching music cannot be our only source of joy. Living life in balance is important. If we have no hobbies, it likely means we are investing too much time in our job. As a result, our life is out of balance.

7. Take care of your health

Eat well, exercise, sleep.  It’s easier to say than to do.  If we don’t feel well, everyone loses out.

8. Compose/create/practice/play

Being an artist will help us to explore music firsthand. As a result, our joy of music-making will enrich our students and remind us why we do what we do. This includes taking lessons and furthering our performance growth. 

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9. Observe other inspiring teachers

Watching other teachers can inspire us with new ideas and approaches in the classroom. Great teaching transfers between discipline, so visit that masterful Spanish teacher or anyone who is passionate within their out craft.

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10. Run efficient rehearsals

Maximizing rehearsals will keep our job interesting and will prevent the need to add-on to our schedule. If we don’t have enough time to accomplish what we want to accomplish, we must either program less or be more efficient.


11. Don’t take things personally

Poor student behavior or lack of focus usually has nothing to do with us. Students have bad days and we cannot allow ourselves to be personally affected by their attitude. We also cannot think every decision made by our administration, guidance counselors, or other outside entities are intended to hurt us. Sometimes their goals and our goals don’t gel; as a result, they may not understand how their choices impact us. While we may need to have difficult conversations from time to time, we should try to not take these things personally.

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12. Be a team player

We are one small part of the larger school community. As a result, we must work together toward a common goal. Our class is not more important than any other class, nor are we less important. We need to support one another instead of fight for what is ours. When we are in fight mode, we tire ourselves out.

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13. Find ways to make THEM work harder…..not us

Successful teachers focus on student learning, not on teaching. Set high expectations that foster learning and motivate students to want to learn. This may include teaching your singers to self-assess,  providing choral rehearsal tracks, and focusing on sight-singing in class to the point that students gain independence.

14. Have purpose with everything we do

Every activity, lecture, or song selection must have purpose and value. When we expect our students to participate in any additional evening event or weekend performance, it must feel important. Without purpose, all parties lose energy. As a result, we burnout, and so do our students.

15. Always eat lunch – but not always in the teacher’s room

We must not give up our lunch time to help students. It is our time, and we must use it to regroup, nourish, and be adults. While interacting with other teachers is so important, the teacher’s cafeteria can be full of negative energy. We should eat with other teachers while choosing our dining partners wisely.

16. Step away from the building

The outside air can quickly help to put our job in perspective. Sometimes our entire world feels like it’s inside our classroom, but walking outside reminds us that it is much greater.

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17. Set personal teaching goals

When we create new goals each semester, or each year, we can provide exciting challenges for ourselves. Perhaps it’s a major work we want to tackle. Maybe it’s getting our choir to learn a piece using solfege without us ever touching the piano. Maybe it’s teaching a gospel song completely by rote. Setting personal/professional goals will keep us motivated. As a result of developing this skill, we will be able to find motivation in mundane rehearsal situations.

18. Redefine our teaching philosophy

Every successful company has a mission statement. As a result, we must continually redefine or recommit to what our underlying philosophy is. Every decision we make must be related to that philosophy. By staying aligned with both our professional AND personal goals, we will make smart, effective, and healthy decisions that will keep us from burning out!

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  – the best classroom sight-singing tool on the market!!